Revamped accelerators, round two.
Rather than invite early-stage founders across any industry to its accelerator programming as it had in the past, earlier this year, Philly Startup Leaders announced it would be running industry-specific cohorts. The goal would be to maximize connections and progress with likeminded peers.
The local entrepreneurship-boosting org’s first sessions — the Cannabiz accelerator, for businesses working in the cannabis industry, and the Ethical Entrepreneurship accelerator, for businesses with a social, environmental or economic mission — just wrapped up this spring. (Here’s who was originally named to the cohorts.)
“The goal for us is to be able to serve more entrepreneurs, and there was some stratification by industry,” PSL Director Isabelle Kent told Technical.ly. “We wanted to get more targeted so we could select the right speakers, resources and partners for each group and create some stronger ties among the entrepreneurs.”
Now, the org is looking at its next industries for the fall program: food innovation and blockchain.
Food innovation in Philly
Food innovation is an industry that has strong ties in the Philly region already, Kent said. Aramark, Campbell’s, Oatly and Dietz and Watson are some of the major food employers in the region, and local tech-enabled delivery companies like Misfits Market and Gopuff show an example of how to innovate and scale in the industry.
The accessibility of the industry was another draw, Kent said. Philly’s traditionally thriving industries, higher ed and medicine, have high barriers to entry.
“They take expensive education, long career paths and pedigree. Inherently they weren’t sectors that are inclusive for most Philadelphians,” Kent said. “Food was a more accessible in for that career trajectory. We’re evaluating sectors that have the capacity of being diverse early on, and have opportunities for change.”
Blockchain in Philly
The second accelerator, for blockchain companies, is a bit more straightforward for tech entrepreneurs. PSL first thought of tackling logistics and supply chain for one of this year’s cohorts, but its network needed a bit more development, Kent said. And although cryptocurrency markets have had an unsteady year, blockchain technology is used for much more, and groups like DeFi Philly and NFT Philly have gained quick bases.
There could be more collaboration between blockchain companies and traditional financial institutions, Kent said, and there’s room for development in Philly’s blockchain community. And with its uses in building Web3 and the metaverse, it’s time Philly entrepreneurs get in early.
“We see blockchain as a tech solution that will come out of this strong, on the enterprise and community based-innovation side,” the director said.
How to participate in Philly Startup Leaders’ accelerators
These two, 10-startup cohorts will be local, with room for maybe one or two exceptions for founders who are considering relocating to Philadelphia, according to Kent. And unlike last round’s 10-week schedule, the fall cohorts will operate on a 12-week program, from the end of September through December. The groups will meet weekly on Tuesdays, be connected with mentors, speakers and capital partners, and participate in November’s Founder Factory event.
Applications are open through Aug. 15.
The new programing was rolled out as PSL revamped its board and advisors, adding these names: Antonia Dean from Comcast, Andrew Hoagland of NextMv, Michelle Berkoben of Wipfli, Andy Salamon of Material, Mercedes Ballard of Heristic, Munir Pathak of ReadySet, Daniel Gardner of Gardner Capital Group, Nicole Hofmann of EVYAP America, Fractional CTO Nico Westerdale, Trina Jones of Health Union LLC, Rick Genzer of Ben Franklin Tech Partners, and Mark Wendaur of Stradley Ronon Stevens and Young, LLP.